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"Thage," Retica says, fidgeting awkwardly as she picks up the collar, "are you sure this is the only way?"

"Don't be difficult," Thage answers. She has to stand on tiptoes to buckle the collar around his neck, but then she keeps her hands there for a minute, and murmurs something under her breath that makes the air crackle and Retica's hair stand on end. "Duphaston is hiding something from me. I need a chance to investigate his library, and these parties of his are the only time we can be sure his attention will be fully occupied elsewhere."

"What did you just do to me?" Retica asks. He reaches for the collar, and then yanks his hand away again when it burns his fingers. "Thage!"

She smiles up at him. "You're my property," she says. "The collar makes that obvious. The spell will prevent anyone else from removing it. That's all."

Retica wants to argue, like he always does when she says stuff like that. But she sounds impatient, and she'll probably just hurt him if he complains now. "I just hope this is worth it," he says instead.

"It will be," Thage says. "I'm close to finding the Eternal Poison, Retica." Her expression changes, her eyes pleading, and that's the part that makes it hard for him to resist her, not the punishment. "I just need your help."

"Okay," Retica says.

Thage locks a chain leash to the front of the collar, and then hands him a heavy cloak he can wear to hide the fact that he's naked. It'll still be plenty obvious that something isn't right, if she's going to be holding his leash all the way from Twilight's Rest to the count's manor, but maybe in Isapolis people won't care. Everything here is creepy anyway.

It's cold outside, and half-dark like always. Retica hugs the cloak tight around himself and follows Thage up the cobbled street. She's moving fast, so he has to hurry to keep the leash from pulling tight. She didn't have to change her clothes at all for this. Her black velvet and high boots are apparently the right kind of costume for the role she's playing already.

When they reach the manor, the door opens before they've even knocked, and one of the count's koona blinks up at them. "Emoclew!" it says, waving one stubby paw. Retica thinks probably it would be smiling, if bears could do that. "Ytrap eht rof ereh uoy era?"

"We are," Thage says. She hands the koona a stiff white card. "At the count's invitation."

"Ni emoc, ni emoc!" the koona says, pulling the door open wider and stepping back. Thage and Retica step inside. The koona closes the door, and then holds out its paws for Retica's cloak.

Retica fidgets. "Do I have to?" he asks. Thage raises a warning eyebrow, and he flinches a little. He takes off the cloak. The koona won't care, right?

It sniffs the air as it takes the cloak, though. "Reti, yako uoy era?"

He opens his mouth to answer, and Thage says, "He's fine. Don't give me a reason to complain to the count about your services."

The koona squeaks, and flees with Retica's cloak.

"You're going to be trouble if I leave you to your own devices, aren't you?" she says. "You aren't to speak to anyone. You're here as my slave." She produces something black and strappy from somewhere -- more magic, maybe? -- and says, "Open your mouth."

"Thage," Retica says, "I won't --"

"Now," Thage says, and the power of the oath she put on him snaps along his nerves. Retica opens his mouth, and Thage fits the thing she's holding into it. He tastes leather, and his mouth feels full, his tongue pressed down by the thick bulb. Thage wraps the straps around his head and fastens them snugly. "There. Can you speak?"

Retica tries, but all he can manage is an awkward moaning sound. He can't close his jaw or move his tongue enough to make words. He shakes his head.

"Good. This way," Thage says. Her heels click sharply on the marble floors as she leads Retica through the manor, and he wonders if she's been here before; she seems to know her way around pretty well.

The party is happening in a big room in the back of the manor. They walk in, and Retica stumbles a little, eyes wide as he tries to take it all in. There's music playing from somewhere, and at least half the people he's seen in the Libertine or in Twilight's Rest seem to be there -- most of them at least partly undressed, a lot of them touching each other. There's a rack on one side of the room, with one of the twins from Peluna tied to it. Retica can't see which one from here, just sees blond hair and tattooed limbs shuddering every time the woman standing in front of the rack lashes out with her whip. There are majin in one corner, even, pinned down by the bright spears of binding light. As Retica watches, a man pushes his cock into the mouth of a kneeling lapis sylph.

Retica whimpers, and tugs on his leash. Thage hushes him, and steps forward, extending her free hand to offer it to their host as he walks up to greet them.

"I'm so glad to see you, my princess," Duphaston says, bowing over Thage's hand. His eyes are bright, predatory green. "I've been hoping you would accept my invitation. And yet -- the Guiding Sage has not come with you?"

"He said he wasn't interested," Thage says. She nods to Retica. "But I don't come entirely without offerings."

Duphaston looks Retica up and down, arching an eyebrow theatrically. "Ah," he says, "a rare treat, indeed. I doubt many of my guests have had the pleasure of sampling a heretic."

Thage laughs brightly. "Have I managed to bring you a luxury you haven't yet enjoyed?" she asks. She hands the end of the leash to Duphaston. "Then please, do try him. I insist. You'll find that neither his collar nor his gag can be removed, but I don't mind if you want to add...further embellishments."

"My princess is too kind," Duphaston says. "Will you assist me, or would you prefer simply to watch?"

"In a little while, perhaps," Thage says. "I'd like to look around first, and see what other entertainments your friends are enjoying. Please don't feel you need to wait on my account."

Retica watches the back and forth; he thinks Duphaston looks suspicious, but he's not sure. He shifts a little, uncomfortable, and for some reason that makes Duphaston smile broadly.

"I'll do my best not to wear him out before you return to my side," Duphaston murmurs. He pulls on the leash, and Retica takes a nervous step toward him. "This way, boy," he says.

He leads the way further into the room, into the middle of the revelers. Retica's nerves are already strung taut -- Thage has made him do...a lot of stuff for her by now, even some of the stuff that the people here are doing to each other, but never out in public like this. And Duphaston seems to want to do it where everyone can see.

"Frightened?" Duphaston asks, tilting Retica's chin up. Retica shakes his head, glaring. "Good. You needn't be, so long as you're as entertaining as your mistress has promised. Now, I'd like you to kneel."

Retica fidgets for a second, but he obeys before Duphaston has to tell him a second time. He can't see Thage anymore. He hopes it doesn't take long for her to find what she's looking for.

Duphaston kneels with him, and fastens the other end of Retica's leash to an eyebolt set in the floor. Retica tries not to let himself act nervous. He won't be able to stand up like this -- the leash isn't long enough. He can still move a little, but only as long as he's on his knees. His face gets hot. Duphaston would probably like that, seeing him crawl.

For now, Duphaston pulls Retica into his lap, facing away from him, so Retica can see what other people are doing while the count's hands pet and stroke him all over. He keeps trying not to look at the majin, but he can't help himself. There's a velox pinned on its elbows and knees, being mounted from behind. The man using the lapis sylph is fucking its mouth so roughly that Retica's almost glad Thage gagged him. At least he won't have to cooperate for that.

Duphaston's touch is light, teasing, playing with Retica's cock and balls. Retica squirms in his lap, moaning. "You are charming," Duphaston purrs in his ear. "I thought she'd have much more trouble taming you, but you're really quite pliant, aren't you?"

Retica clenches his fist for a second, then makes himself relax. Thage needs him to do this. He moans again, and pushes into Duphaston's hands.

"Good boy," Duphaston says. He spills Retica out of his lap, onto the floor. "Now wait right here. I'll be right back."

As Duphaston walks away, Retica catches himself reaching for his own cock, and stops in embarrassment. He shouldn't be enjoying this so much that he actually wants anything. He can hear a boy's voice crying out in climax somewhere behind him, and squirms.

"Please don't stop on my account," Duphaston says. "You do make a lovely showpiece. Here. Allow me to assist you with that." He spreads Retica's thighs, slipping leather cuffs around each one just above the knee. The cuffs fasten to either end of a polished black bar, so that Retica can no longer close his legs. He whimpers. Any position he took now would leave him on display -- and as Duphaston presses him down, into a pose like the velox's, they do start to attract an audience. A few of the men at the party come to watch Duphaston oil and stretch his ass, and Retica wonders if he should be grateful for the training Thage has put him through, the toys she's made him wear.

He still moans pitifully when Duphaston's cock fills him, bowing his head so he won't see the men watching as they start to stroke themselves. He still hears it clearly enough, though, when one of them says, "Really, count, you do earn your reputation. Where did you find such a creature?"

"Ah, this one isn't mine," Duphaston answers, fucking Retica with slow, lazy strokes. "He's been generously provided by a dear friend. Exciting, isn't it?"

The other man laughs. "That's one word for it," he says.

"Would you like him after me?" Duphaston asks. "I'm afraid I can't free his mouth for you, but I have no intention of monopolizing him all evening."

"Touch a heretic?" the man asks. "I think not." Retica tenses angrily again, and then tries to relax when he realizes that of course Duphaston will be able to feel it.

"I'd take a turn with that," the man on Retica's other side says. "Pretty little ass like that, I'd bet he's tight."

Duphaston hums, stroking Retica's thigh possessively. "Sinfully," he says. "You won't be disappointed."

The first man who'd spoken steps closer. His boots are the white-and-purple of the church's dark order. "Look at me, heretic," he says, nudging Retica's chin with the toe of one boot.

Retica looks up, tilting his head back, to see the man's hand working his cock quickly and efficiently, the head flushed dark with arousal in his pale fist. The motion is ruthless, determined in a way that reminds Retica of Thage, and he knows where this is headed but he's trying to be...entertaining, so he stays put and keeps watching until the man in the priest costume finishes and splatters come all over his face.

"That does look nice," says the man who was waiting. "Damn shame we can't have his mouth, too."

"My apologies for keeping you waiting," Duphaston says, and a minute later he shudders and goes still. "Please, help yourself." He pulls out, and the other man laughs as he walks around to take Duphaston's place.

The second man's cock is much thicker than Duphaston's, big enough that Retica squirms uncomfortably, trying to get away when it first fills him. He can't struggle very much with the bar holding him spread, though, and it's easier to just stop fighting and let the man have him. After the second man finishes with him there's a third, who calls him names in a low, hissing voice the entire time, and then a fourth, who says nothing at all. He's getting sore by the time the fourth man lets him go, and he feels like a mess, a sticky mixture of oil and come dripping down over his balls and the insides of his thighs. What's taking Thage so long?

After a break that seems entirely too short, he feels another touch run down his back, and a woman's low, smoky voice says, "They've warmed you up, have they?" Retica has to think for a moment before he places the voice: it's Archaya, the mistress of the Traviata House. He cringes a little.

She drips more oil into the crack of his ass, and Retica squirms at the sensation. She laughs, the sound harsh and short. "Don't fight," she says. Retica nods. He knows he doesn't have a lot of choice.

Archaya pushes a thick bead into his ass, then a second, then a third. When she presses a fourth against him, Retica shakes his head, reaching back to try to stop her. She sighs, and takes hold of his wrist, cuffing it and then attaching it to the band around his thigh. She matches the bondage on the other side, forcing Retica face-down on the floor. "Now don't fight," she repeats, and this time he can't stop her from adding the fourth bead. Retica whimpers, feeling too full and too vulnerable. Archaya takes him by the hair and pulls him up to a kneeling position, splayed open and on display.

People are watching again as Archaya sinks down between Retica's spread legs and reaches for his cock. He startles, eyes wide -- nobody since Duphaston has paid any attention to his cock, and he's mostly soft. Still, she knows what she's doing, and even with the aches and the awkwardness it doesn't take too long for her to get him hard again.

When she has him hard, she unwinds a ribbon from around her wrist and wraps it instead around his cock and balls. Retica moans helplessly. Even Thage rarely binds him this completely -- now he's been spread open and filled at both ends, tied off, needy and completely at Archaya's mercy.

"Candle," Archaya says, turning away. A girl Retica doesn't realize brings her one, a fat white taper that's already burning. She turns back to Retica, and smiles.

He shakes his head, no, too much, and tries to edge away from her. He can't really move, though, can't get away fast enough. The first time she tips the candle, the wax drips across his stomach, but then she takes hold of his leash to keep him from going any further and tips it again. Molten wax splatters the head of his cock, and Retica screams into his gag.

Archaya shivers like that brought her pleasure, and does it again. Retica jerks, shudders at the pain, squeezing his eyes shut. Why hasn't Thage come back yet? Archaya strokes his cock almost gently, brushing off solidified drops of wax, and then repeats the torment.

Retica's chest is heaving, his eyes stinging by the time Archaya lets go and pulls back. "You are fun to play with," she says. "I'd pierce you, if Thage were around to agree to it."

"Unfortunately," Duphaston says -- where did he come from? -- "Miss Thage may not return for some time." He walks around slowly until he's in Retica's field of vision. "I'm afraid she's seeking something she won't be able to find." He smiles at Retica, his eyes glittering with malicious delight. "Still, I'm sure we can keep you...entertained...until she returns."

Retica shakes his head frantically. He doesn't need any more "entertainment" like this. And if Duphaston already knows what Thage is after, why doesn't he stop this? No, Retica knows the answer to that. Duphaston isn't stopping because he's a bastard.

"Come, now," Duphaston says. He unlocks the cuffs, so Retica can at least move a little, though he doesn't take out any of the beads. "You don't want any harm to befall Thage while she's engaged in such dangerous pursuits, do you?" He unlocks the leash from the floor, tugs on it once to make Retica crawl after him as he walks toward the stage at the far end of the room. "You should provide me with a suitable distraction, then, so I'm not tempted to take offense."

He's a bastard, but Retica doesn't fight.